Fans' Forum minutes: 15/10/05
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS CONSULTATIVE FORUM 2005/ 2006 SEASON
Meeting held at the Lord Attenborough Suite, Chelsea F.C. Hotel, at 11.20am on Saturday, 15th October 2005.
ATTENDEES/ group represented
- Bacchus, Gary (blueandwhitearmy.net)
- Bromfield, Gillian (season ticket holder)
- Coleman, John (family section)
- Goodliff, Ryan (16 - 21 age group)
- Hazard, Kevin (season ticket holder)
- Hine, Tom (member)
- Mann, Roger (branch)
- Michael, Richard (member)
- Michaelson, Bob (exec member/ box holder)
- Monasingh, Marc (member)
- O’Callaghan, Terry (branch)
- Paul, Dennis (over 60 age group)
- Polk, Jamie (disabled section)
- Walters, Jez (cfc.net)
- Weller, Jim (season ticket holder)
- Arthur, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Operations Director)
- Gourlay, Ron (Chelsea F.C. Commercial Director
- Greenberg, Simon (Chelsea F.C. Communications Director)
- Kenyon, Peter (Chelsea F.C. Chief Executive)
- Newby, David (Chelsea F.C. Marketing Manager)
- Smith, Paul (Chelsea F.C. Business Affairs Director)
- Regan, Andy (Electoral Reform Services, Chair)
- Essex, Roger (branch)
(Action points are in bold and underlined.)
CHELSEA SUPPORTERS GROUP (CSG)
Club: We were meant to be joined by the CSG representative, for that group’s first attendance at the Forum. Our decision is that they will not be attending, as the result of not being able to resolve an unacceptable situation.
We set the Forum up to have a cross-section of fans that can discuss any topic on the non-footballing side, without interference. It’s based on collaboration. The Club doesn’t find it acceptable for issues to be publicly campaigned for by Forum members on the eve of a Forum meeting. We asked for the CSG to withdraw their support for a banner that is apparently going to be brought in to the ground for today’s match. That banner has not had health & safety approval, and could cause problems for stewards and police. Ultimately fans at the ground could be ejected for breaking such rules. This is not responsible behaviour for a Forum member.
We reconfirmed that we would like them to be part of the Forum, but we do have to ask everyone to work together. We were not given that assurance. I hope no one else is inconvenienced by this matter.
It is not in any way an attempt to stifle free speech and of course we are happy to have the debate on ticketing, including the issue mentioned on the banner.
This is not in any way personal, and in fact the Club were very keen to have the CSG included on the Forum in the first place.
Chair: Does any Forum member want to comment on that?
(No comments made.)
Chair: We welcome Ron Gourlay, the Club’s Commercial Director, to the Forum.
On a separate issue, the Chelsea Supporters Club has put in an application to join the Forum. It is well-known to most fans and is long-established. Are the Club officials and fans in the Forum happy for them to be included?
CHANGES TO THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING/ MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES
(No changes to the previous minutes.)
Club: In response to the action points that arose from the end of last season (reproduced here):
1) The Club will include statistics in next season’s programme as to how many away fans have come to Stamford Bridge per match.
We will include them once a month in the programme, as they look messy when included in the tables. We will put them on the website as well, and are happy for fanzine websites to have that information.
2) Re. the Fans Satisfaction Survey, the Club will review next (now this) year's findings at the Forum.
3) Re. ticketing, if any season tickets come onto the market for next (now this) season, the Club will try and keep them for fans coming out of the family area, and then members.
This is an on-going commitment.
4) Also re. ticketing, the Club is happy to provide a reminder on the website about sending in change of credit card details, but the rest is up to fans.
This has been done.
5) Season ticket rules for European matches will be made clear for next season (some fans were unsure if they were signing up to buy home or away tickets).
To follow under Ticketing at this meeting. Clearly this hasn’t been error-free!
6) Away season tickets for branch groups will be included in any new arrangements, though there is not much spare supply at present.
The interpretation is that we will make them available to local supporter groups for each away match in particular.
Fans: We will need to decide the definition of “local” though.
7) The Club will look at whether it can reduce the credit card charge in future to one transaction fee.
We reviewed this, and we are actually cheaper than most of our rivals. Manchester United and Arsenal are more expensive for instance. We think Arsenal is £1.75 per ticket + £1.60. We are happy to look at the issue of bulk purchases when we review for next season. It seems to be the general practice for the industry, but will certainly try to make it as fair as possible.
8) The Club will speak to branch group representatives on the Forum before next season.
The meeting hasn’t occurred yet.
CURRENT TICKETING ISSUES
Fans: Concession prices for children. There has been a call for children’s tickets to be available around the ground.
Club: We are committed to discuss every relevant topic for next season. However, this is an issue for next season which we are happy to look at then. Ground configuration, overall price increases with price spreading within that, wider concessions were all looked at for this season, so this isn’t the time to reformulate policy for this season. We continue to make major price reductions for non-European cup matches to encourage family attendance.
Having said that we have made mistakes over the Champions League (CL), in respect of group match prices, and concession prices. We are putting those right. The policies we had made were correct, but these were not implemented.
Fans: Will we therefore have different prices for different home matches in the CL? Price differentiation seems logical, as we had the Sunderland home match in the League last month, with a CL game three days later and less than 30,000 in the ground.
Club: Our philosophy is that fans come to see Chelsea and therefore the cost should remain the same. Match demand is also based on whether a particular match is seen as important - if the Anderlecht home match was crucial we think the ground would have been full. There were other factors: It was just after the end of school holidays, there was a home match just before, it was a live game on terrestrial TV.
There have been lots of changes to football recently with more kick-off times displaced, more matches on TV, so we are assessing our philosophy on prices against that.
Fans: We are often not full for early season European matches anyway. However, it’s been so difficult to get tickets here if you’re not a member or ST holder, so other fans will assume there are no tickets left.
For supporter clubs, we seem to have problems with this. Supporter groups get tickets on the basis of one per person, so we can’t get more for friends, as members and ST holders can. For away matches, supporter clubs are told to wait for extra tickets until almost the last moment - we were told by the Club that we’d only get any more on the day before the Liverpool match in the CL. When we got there, there were lots of empty seats. We know a lot of those fans who got tickets for all three group CL away matches didn’t want them for Liverpool.
The situation is similar for Premier League matches (PL). Supporter clubs have to apply at the beginning of the season, but we are dependent on whether ST holders decide whether to go or not two weeks before a match.
Supporter clubs have to apply for each match separately for home matches for what we are told is 1,000 tickets.
Club: The corporate tickets weren’t all taken up at Liverpool. We will look at the timing of the process, as it’s certainly only fair for those wanting spare tickets to have a chance in good time. Ron Gourlay’s role will encompass this issue to ensure that it doesn’t fall between different official’s responsibilities.
There is certainly a policy issue as to how many supporter club tickets you are assured of. We are also trying to introduce a priority for away matches for local supporter clubs. We will arrange a meeting with the supporter clubs on these issues.
What do fans feel about the 21 day pre-match sale period that we’ve introduced?
Fans: It would be useful to have longer so that we can plan our matches a lot earlier - four or five weeks would be useful. There can be major travel issues for those who have to plan long journeys at relatively short notice, and want to travel together.
Whatever the Club’s policy, we need consistency - that’s what website opinion seems to be most in favour of. Fans could also do with being alerted that the period of sale is about to start - in the e-mail newsletters.
Club: We understand the issue of planning for long journeys. We will consider email alerts to include imminent ticket sales.
When the 21 day policy was instituted, we hadn’t planned on matches going to general sale. All bar the Arsenal match have done though. If we go to 28 days or 35 days, it would be a bit more complicated for the box office, but more importantly, fans would have far more matches to plan for at one time. During a busy part of the season there could be five or six matches in 35 days.
We want to move away from general sale as well. Now that we know where approximate sale levels will reach, we can move towards ST holders and members being able to buy more tickets earlier. For the Bolton match we went for four tickets for these groups from the start, which also makes it easier to sit with those you may want to bring, as previously you would have to get tickets for those other people separately. For these reasons we propose to keep the 21 day policy, but with this change of emphasis.
Fans: There were mixed messages on Club media as to how many tickets were available this week.
Club: Logically, all should be able to get the same amount. An ST holder will now be able to buy up to three more, and members can buy a total of four, all at the same time. This will be after ST holders have had the chance to buy their own seats for CL matches. The exception to the general policy will be certain matches where neither group can buy any additional tickets. We will report back on how we deal with allocations for future home matches. We can always let the Forum know before the next meeting.
To clarify what’s available, we have 23,500 ST holders and 55-56,000 members, with the latter going for about 10,000 tickets. In the family area of the East Stand, there are about 1,200 tickets available, after ST holders are excluded.
Fans: Presumably supporter clubs will still have longer though, as we have more to coordinate. Supporter clubs will want more per person as well then.
For ST holders at CL matches, it’s up to that individual to know which nearby ST seats are available and try and snap them up along with everyone else.
Club: The supporter club issue can be discussed at the separate meeting.
Fans: Please can we have the fixture list leaflet earlier in the season - it was very late this year.
Club: There were particular difficulties with it this year. This shouldn’t reoccur.
Fans: There were useful meetings between the Club and disabled fans over the summer, with some differences. There was a key difference between us as to whether positive discrimination is a problem with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
Fans there pointed out that the report of the DDA did not say that full prices should be charged as a consequence from now on.
Club: The problem is that we were advised elsewhere that we needed to now charge full price for the disabled, and acted on that.
We now want to meet with the Disability Rights Commission and National Association of Disabled Supporters to review this. We want to have best practice on this issue and the Club is obviously united on giving a good deal to disabled fans where we can, within the law. We thought we were being consistent with best practice in the industry - that’s what we believed we were being told! But there seems to be a complete lack of consistency. It doesn’t look as if the FAPL is taking the lead with this.
Fans: The Club should take the lead on this to ensure best practice. It should be a matter of pride for the Club - in the U.S. this is something that sports franchises pride themselves on.
Disability facilities for home matches are not as good for this season, now that we’ve lost Dickie’s Deck, and now only three fans have positions above pitch level. Also, disabled away fans that visit the Bridge had to pay full rates last season.
Do the Council play a role in licensing disabled facilities?
Club: On the latter point, the Council don’t really get involved in that. The issues come down to whether the disabled can get out of the ground easily or not, in other words the nature of their disability. There are different access issues with the two groups.
The amount paid by disabled away fans will be consistent with our home fans, if amended. There was no intention to discriminate against disabled away fans and we will put this right.
Fans: Other anomalies include STs for the disabled having to be collected at the start of the season; carer tickets for a CL match weren’t sent out with the tickets for the disabled; also, with all these issues, it’s proved virtually impossible to get through to the contact at the Club to raise these issues.
Club: We’d like to apologise for the inconvenience of all these issues. We now have an in-house call centre to try and improve communication. We know we have a responsibility to run the business properly and these have obviously been failures.
Fans: Will the West Upper disabled area be opened?
Club: There is provision in the design for four disabled places, and four carer places. This was checked with the Forum’s disabled representative, but it hasn’t been done with the other rebuilding we undertook in the summer. We would want to be sure that there is sufficient demand before undertaking the building work, as we would have to transfer the 21 seats that are currently there.
Fans: We will provide that assurance for the Club.
Club: On the subject of prices for disabled fans, Real Betis intend to charge the individual and their carer 70 euros each. The Club will pick up the bill for the carers though.
Fans: Has there been an apology for the bad advice provided to the Club on the issue of ticket pricing for the disabled? The Club and even Forum members got a lot of criticism.
Club: Advice was provided orally in a meeting with the Club.. However, we never got written confirmation of that, and clearly the advice was not complete. The main thing is to get the policy correct then we can provide more details about what happened.
We want to arrange a meeting with our disabled fans anyway, to introduce the new disability liaison member of staff, and see what we can do to improve the current positioning in the ground.
Fans: How many fans have signed up for the away CL season ticket? What numbers will be available for the Real Betis and Anderlecht games? Having tickets allocated earlier would be a big help. Maybe we need a limit on those who get on the list for these season tickets, as others who want to do one trip only could be left out.
Club: We were amazed to get 2,400 responses over the summer applying for this. When we wrote and asked for confirmation, we only got 1,800 back! This is still a big increase on last year.
We have just received tickets for Real Betis - 2,554 in total - and details are in today’s programme. We wouldn’t risk publicising the allocation until the tickets arrive here as we’ve had discrepancies in the past. After the draw, there is usually an indication within a couple of weeks, but we wouldn’t sell them until they actually arrive. It’s even possible for a club to change home venues to move to a bigger capacity stadium for the match at short notice. There can also be changes after the first match between the clubs, if there has been crowd trouble, for instance.
Within an allocation we have responsibilities to staff, corporate ST holders and sponsors, amongst others.
There is indeed a potential demand problem for these matches. There are two issues. Firstly, if we have tickets over the 1,800, how do we allocate those. And secondly, an issue we would like to resolve today, how do we deal with a shortage of tickets for those 1,800 who expect tickets for every match.
The other factor is that there were 1,200 signed up from last year, and therefore approximately two thirds have re-signed from last season. What we propose is that there are two ballots, to include the loyalty aspect. We suggest that firstly, the CL is treated as distinct from every other competition we are in. If there are 1,000 tickets, the 1,200 from last year are balloted for two thirds of the 1,000 tickets. The remainder who are unsuccessful from that ballot go forward with the other 600 who are new for this season, and are all balloted for the remaining one third of tickets.
We see this as a progressive system that combines loyalty with the opportunity for new away CL ST fans to be successful getting tickets.
If this is agreed to, we will certainly publicise what we’re doing and why we’re doing it in full as the official policy. We see this as a long-term solution, with loyalty based only on the previous season every year. The proportions may change in future years, but the principal would remain.
Club: On a different subject, the refund policies from the Anderlecht home game will be explained in the Real Betis programme and on the website - a hand-out is available to the Forum as well.
FORUM ATMOSPHERE REPORT
Chair: Firstly, many thanks to Toby Brown at cfcnet and Gary on the Forum, from blueandwhitearmy.net. Both fans have put in a huge amount of work on the project. Thanks to all the other Forum members who contributed.
Fans: The main theme that comes from the report is an emphasis on getting the visual displays right, with card displays, more banners, and a return of a Club flag (ideally the “Pride of London” flag) going around the ground before a match. Having the Club spend money on a new flag would certainly be welcome, or if not, then maybe a £1 contribution from as many fans as want to sign the flag.
The other theme of the Report was getting into the ground earlier, in which case there certainly has to be a big improvement in what’s offered to fans before kick-off.
Club: We certainly welcome the report from the Forum. We would be happy to progress this, and will start a sub-committee to progress the issues from the report that we can work on jointly.
If the problems of a sizeable flag can be overcome we would very much welcome this in principle. We understand the subtle influence of seemingly small aspects on ground atmosphere, and will work on the ideas that are feasible.
Fans: Toby, Gary and Richard expressed an interest.
On a different subject, we have doubts about having scores on the scoreboard during the match. Atmosphere can be affected negatively then, depending on the other scores!
Perhaps the scoreboard could be used to encourage fans to sing, as it used to be.
Chair: Other noteworthy aspects of the report include the suggestions of unreserved seating areas, as well as standing areas. Those who voted on the suggestions in the Forum were split on these two points, which may well reflect the wider debate on these outside the Forum.
Club: We experimented with sound in the boxes once, with noise piped in from the MH Lower. The colourful language was certainly an eye-opener in there!
We can certainly include scoreboard use as a topic for the sub-committee.
Fans: There is still a lot of signage around the ground for Chelsea Village. Some newspapers, and grounds at which we play, still show the old badge sometimes.
Club: We are going through all the signage gradually around the ground. There are two phases, using the downtime we have at the Club to replace the Chelsea Village signs as well as the old logo. The Club gates will also become far more prominent for Club signage.
We provided all major media sources and other clubs with the new badge, but it often doesn’t get used for some reason. At the Liverpool game recently in the CL, the old badge was used yet both ourselves and UEFA had sent them the correct badge. In fact they used different badges for the two matches there.
For Sky interviews at the ground, the new badge is in the background, which will help spread its use.
Fans: We like the new badge, as well as the different shading for the badge for the centenary year. The supporter clubs have adopted it as well.
The new membership pack looks impressive too.
When will the kits be replaced by the new supplier? Does the Forum get a say on the new away colours?
Club: Three kits will continue to be rotated every two years. The home kit will stay for two seasons, with the away and CL kits for one season, to start the rotation.
The next away colours have already been decided, and will be announced in due course by the Club.
TOPICS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON
(Topics suggested are:
- Ticketing for next season (third meeting of the season) - Membership - Ground facilities - Fans satisfaction survey (fourth meeting) - Future composition of Forum (fourth meeting) - Megastore rebrand
Club: We will also try and arrange a visit to Cobham (possibly not incorporating a formal Forum meeting), which could also incorporate a tour around the Centenary exhibition.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Fans: There has been a change around in the Megastore. The basement is inaccessible so moving much of the non-children items to that area is not ideal for wheelchair access.
Club: That can be looked at in detail when we look at the issue as a future Forum topic.
Fans: The centenary events don’t seem to be aimed at appealing to children.
Club: We were aiming at children, though perhaps the over tens, with the concert that we had to cancel. We are certainly aware that the carol concert from last year has to be run better.
The Club will consider other centenary events that could be more child-friendly.
We are also still trying to acquire more memorabilia, to build on the heritage of the Club.
Fans: There is perhaps a worry amongst a lot of fans that the centenary events are not including them. Few can arrange or afford to go to the special evening events. Perhaps the Club could arrange a former players match, with fans admitted for the cost of admission from the season of the oldest programme they can bring.
What’s the position with a centenary match?
Club: We had Brazil lined up for a match, as was well publicised, and they wanted to come. However, the FA had second thoughts as the proposed date may have clashed with international commitments. We of course want our full squad if at all possible.
It’s still something that we really want to arrange. The problem is finding a free date for it, and we may need fans to help lobby for it.
(The meeting finished at 1.20pm.)
|Fans' Forum minutes|